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The award-winning Phase Change Matters blog tracks the latest news and research on phase change materials and thermal energy storage. E-mail tips and comments to Ben Welter, communications director at Entropy Solutions. Follow the blog on Twitter at @PureTemp. Subscribe to the weekly PCM newsletter. Or join the discussion on LinkedIn.

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PCM briefing: Brookins confirmed as Alexium CEO; palmitic acid, stearic acid on U.S. tariff list

Ben Welter - Monday, July 16, 2018

Dr. Robert BrookinsAlexium International has appointed Dr. Robert Brookins, right, as chief executive officer and managing director of the company. Brookins, formerly executive vice president of research and development, was appointed interim CEO in May, replacing Dirk Van Hyning, who resigned for personal reasons. Alexium, based in Greer, S.C., and Perth, Australia, makes flame-retardant and PCM-enhanced fabric treatments.

Palmitic acid, stearic acid and their salts and esters are on a list of more than 6,000 items on which the United States may impose additional import tariffs in its escalating trade war with China.

Two top executives at Wilmar International have stepped down after Greenpeace published a report linking the world's largest palm oil trading company to a supplier accused of deforestation.

Active Energy Systems, a clean-tech startup in Tennessee, is developing an electro-thermal energy storage system that will use waste heat generated by data centers, industrial complexes, institutions and power plants to store and distribute energy more efficiently and cheaply than systems using conventional batteries. "Using power from the grid at off-peak times," Venture Nashville Connections reports, "the process transforms water into ice -- spraying it through an oil layer, which allows the water to freeze but not stick to a submerged heat exchanger. Instead, it forms pellets resembling Dippin' Dots ice cream, [co-founder Mitch] Ishmael said. Then the cycle operates in reverse, using waste heat to melt the ice and generate electricity back to the grid."

• New from Research Mentor:" Global Phase Change Material (PCM) Market will be Worth USD 770.1 Million by 2023"

• New from Questale: "Global Eutectic Phase Change Material Market Research Report 2018"

• "What are some new trends in solar energy research and development in 2018?" a Quora member asked recently. Three answers were posted. The one provided by Yogi Goswami, director of the University of South Florida's Clean Energy Research Center, got more than 120 "upvotes" and was picked up by Forbes magazine. Goswami discussed the strengths and weaknesses of two competing technologies: photovoltaics and concentrating solar power. He expressed confidence that CSP will eventually become commercially competitive because it has two big advantages over PV: "It uses the same thermal power conversion as the conventional thermal power (fossil fuel or nuclear based) and can therefore be integrated with the existing power infra-structure easily" and it "uses thermal energy storage which is about one-tenth the cost of battery storage."

PCM briefing: Sunamp's copper heat exchangers; renewable energy's 'next big thing'

Ben Welter - Wednesday, May 30, 2018

• The industry group Copper Alliance takes a look at Sunamp Ltd.'s use of copper heat exchangers in its PCM-equipped heat battery systems: "Copper has a few properties that make it ideal for this application, including high thermal conductivity, lack of corrosion when in contact with the PCM, and the ability to satisfy potable water regulations required to fully certify Sunamp’s products."    

Bloomberg's David Fickling explains why the development of lower-cost energy storage technologies will be renewable energy's "next big thing."

• Swedish researchers have produced a bio-based material that is reported to be stronger than spider silk and all other known bio-based materials, whether fabricated or natural. Working with cellulose nanofiber, the essential building block of plants, researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology have developed larger, lightweight materials for use in airplanes, cars, furniture and other products.

Ecozen Solutions of India, which makes PCM-equipped portable solar cold rooms for use on small farms, was profiled this week in India Climate Dialogue

• New from Global Info Research: "Global Microencapsulation Technology Market 2018 by Manufacturers, Countries, Type and Application, Forecast to 2023"

• New from Market Research Future: "Global Advanced Energy Storage Systems Market Research Report - Forecast to 2027"

• New from HongChun: "2018 Global Molten Salt Solar Energy Thermal Storage and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Industry Depth Research Report"

Horizon 2020's RealValue group has released findings on its three-year, small-scale energy storage project. The group, led by Glen Dimplex and consisting of 13 partner organizations, installed smart electric thermal storage systems in 750 commercial and residential properties in Ireland, Germany and Latvia. Among the findings: "Smart control of SETS devices simultaneously reduces charging costs of the devices while improving the thermal comfort of the end user. It also has potential to manage congestion." 

PCM briefing: Revised version of EU energy directive approved; va-Q-tec signs partnership deal with Unitrans

Ben Welter - Monday, April 23, 2018

• The European Parliament has approved a revised version of the Energy Performance of Buildings directive. The directive aims to reinforce efficiency in the building sector, which accounts for about 40 percent of energy use in Europe. 

• 1414 Degrees is installing a 25MWh demonstration of its silicon-based thermal energy storage system at a poultry processing plant in Australia. 

• New market research from 99Strategy: "Global Micro-capsule Phase Change Composite Material Market 2018-2023: Industry Overview, Segment, Type, Application, Competition, Demand, Price"

• Thermal materials specialist va-Q-tec has signed a partnership deal with Unitrans Ltd. of Japan. Unitrans will begin offering temperature-control box fulfillment services in Osaka in June, expanding va-Q-tec's global distribution network. 

• The technical program at ASHRAE's annual conference in Houston June 23-27 includes a session on "Principles and Practices of Thermal Energy Storage Systems for Air Conditioning."

• On the list of short courses available at the American Oil Chemists' Society annual meeting and expo in Minneapolis May 6-9: "Fundamentals of Oils and Fats Crystallization" (Alejandro Marangoni, University of Guelph) and "Improving the Bottom Line of Oils and Fats Refining" (Ken Carlson, RBD Technologies Inc.). 

Nagpur traffic officer wearing a cooling vest• Traffic cops in Nagpur, India, are beating the heat with cooling vests that contain phase change material, Nagpur Today reports. At a glance, though, the thin vests [right] appear to rely mostly on evaporative cooling. 

• Cold chain solutions provider Cryopak is now offering deterministic container closure integrity testing methods at the company's testing center in Edison, N.J. The methods will be used on flexible packaging, sealed containers and other packaging systems. 

• Working in collaboration with Glaciem Cooling Technologies, the University of South Australia has completed work on a new refrigerated cooling system for the hospitality industry. The PCM-based system was installed at the Bend Motorsport Park in Tailem Bend, Australia. Glaciem's ThermCOLD system uses a salt-based phase change material to store thermal energy, allowing refrigeration plants to run and store energy during off-peak periods, when electricity rates are lower, and then release energy during peak periods. 

• Scientists at England's University of Portsmouth have accidentally created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drink bottles. "The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans," the Guardian reports. "But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process."

Ecozen Solutions of India, which makes portable solar cold rooms for use on small farms, is among 12 organizations shortlisted for the 2018 International Ashden Awards. The system's thermal storage unit can store power for more than 36 hours in case of cloudy or rainy weather.

Research roundup: Thermal protective clothing; nanosilica-enhanced PCM; active-passive ventilation wall; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Reversible thermochromic microencapsulated phase change materials for thermal energy storage application in thermal protective clothing [Applied Energy]

Micro encapsulated & form-stable phase change materials for high temperature thermal energy storage [Applied Energy]

Thermal performance of an active-passive ventilation wall with phase change material in solar greenhouses [Applied Energy]

A novel nanosilica-enhanced phase change material with anti-leakage and anti-volume-changes properties for battery thermal management [Energy Conversion and Management]

Synthetic Comb-Like Phase-Change Material Poly(Acrylonitrile-co-Lauric Acid) Copolymer for Low Temperature Energy Management [Materials Science Forum]

Fundamental incorporation of the density change during melting of a confined phase change material [Journal of Applied Physics]

Preliminary investigation of thermal behaviour of PCM based latent heat thermal energy storage [E3S Web of Conferences]

Research roundup: Protective clothing for firefighters; PCM-integrated wall insulation; TES using diesel engine exhaust; more

Ben Welter - Thursday, January 11, 2018

Guidelines for the specification of a PCM layer in Firefighting Protective Clothing Ensembles [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Summer thermal performances of PCM-integrated insulation layers for light-weight building walls: effect of orientation and melting point temperature [Thermal Science and Engineering Progress]

Numerical investigation on cooling behaviour of buildings using phase change material [International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology]

An experimental investigation of PCM based thermal energy storage system using diesel engine exhaust-gas [International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology]

Thermal storage/management system with phase change materials for building [Advances in Mechanical Engineering]

PCM briefing: USC develops PCM for satellites; Axiom Exergy posts opening for product engineer intern

Ben Welter - Monday, January 08, 2018

• Engineers at the University of Southern California and Northrop Grumman have developed a phase change material designed to control temperature swings that can disrupt the performance of satellites. A hybrid structure of silicon and vanadium dioxide works like textured skin to better control the radiation from the body of the satellite.

Axiom Exergy of Richmond, Calif., is seeking a product engineering intern. It's a three-month position with the possibility of transitioning to full-time employment. Applicants are asked to answer this bonus question: "Given the choice between pure water and a NaCl-water solution as the thermal energy storage medium in medium temperature (40°F, 4.4°C) refrigeration applications, what are the pros and cons of each material?"

BioPCM image from Craigslist ad• Spotted on Craigslist: 3,000 square feet of BioPCM M27 and M51 for sale in San Diego. The seller, a building contractor, is asking for $1 per square foot. In a response to an email seeking more details, he described the material as "new in its original packaging" and wrote: "Make me an offer."

• U.K.-based Sure Chill, whose water-based refrigeration technology is used to keep vaccines cool without the need for grid-based electricity, has been long-listed for a 2018 Ashden Award in the Sustainable Energy and Health category.  

Pelican BioThermal has appointed Dominic Hyde as vice president of Crēdo on Demand.

Bio Gemüse Wagner, reported to be Germany's largest organic greenhouse, opened last month in Mühlingen. A 3,000-cubic-meter water tank is used as a thermal battery, storing heat supplied by a nearby biogas installation.

• New from Transparency Market Research: "1-Tetradecanol Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2016 - 2024"

• New from Absolute Reports: "Europe And Regional Bio-Based Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Industry Production, Sales and Consumption Status and Prospects Professional Market Research Report 2018-2023" and "North America and Regional Inorganic Advanced Phase Change Materials (PCM) Industry Production, Sales And Consumption Status and Prospects Professional Market Research Report 2018-2023"

• "Caesar’s Last Breath," a new book by Sam Kean, details Albert Einstein's surprising passion project: a safer (but ultimately impractical) refrigerator.

Research roundup: Cooling vests; palygorskite-based composites; convective solar crop dryer; more

Ben Welter - Thursday, December 21, 2017

An Optimal Two-Bout Strategy with Phase Change Material Cooling Vests to Improve Comfort in Hot Environment [Journal of Thermal Biology]

Preparation of palygorskite-based phase change composites for thermal energy storage and their applications in Trombe walls [Journal of Wuhan University of Technology]

Thermal performance of optimum thermal energy storage in natural convective solar crop dryer [Bhartiya Krishi Anusandhan Patrika]

Integrated Dispatch Model for Combined Heat and Power Plant with Phase-change Thermal Energy Storage Considering Heat Transfer Process [IEEE Transactions on Sustainable Energy]

Modeling of District Heating Networks for the Purpose of Operational Optimization with Thermal Energy Storage [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Study of Nusselt Number Evolution in PCM Shell-and-Tube Configuration [Euro-Mediterranean Conference for Environmental Integration]

Reduced-scale experiments to evaluate performance of composite building envelopes containing phase change materials [Construction and Building Materials]

Research roundup: Rubber sealing materials; pork fat as novel PCM; thermal inertia of buildings; more

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Feasibility of Using Microencapsulated Phase Change Materials as Filler for Improving Low Temperature Performance of Rubber Sealing Materials [Soft Matter]

Evaluation of the nanofluid and nano-PCM based photovoltaic thermal (PVT) system: An experimental study [Energy Conversion and Management]

Investigation of pork fat as potential novel phase change material for passive cooling applications in photovoltaics [Journal of Cleaner Production]

Superwetting polypropylene aerogel supported form-stable phase change materials with extremely high organics loading and enhanced thermal conductivity [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Polyethylene glycol-enwrapped silicon carbide nanowires network/expanded vermiculite composite phase change materials: Form-stabilization, thermal energy storage behavior and thermal conductivity enhancement [Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells]

Solar desalination using solar still enhanced by external solar collector and PCM [Applied Thermal Engineering]

Using Thermal Inertia of Buildings with Phase Change Material for Demand Response [Energy Procedia]

Preparation of microencapsulated phase change materials (MEPCM) for thermal energy storage [Energy Procedia]

Study of thermal conductive enhancement mechanism and selection criteria of carbon-additive for composite phase change materials [International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer]

German researchers roll out PCM warming mats for greenhouse plants

Ben Welter - Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Researchers at the University of Zwickau's Institute for Textile and Leather Technologies are developing a latent heat storage mat that uses phase change material to increase plant root temperatures in cold seasons. 

Dr. Silke HessburgThe passive system, designed for use in greenhouses, requires no additional energy supply. Dr. Silke Hessberg, who is directing the research, says root climate control promotes plant growth efficiently.

"There are already various heating systems on the market, such as underfloor heating systems, hot water systems or electric and gas heaters," she says. "These are always cost-intensive heating systems, since energy must be actively supplied."

The Thuringian Institute of Textile and Plastics Research (TITK) is supporting the two-year project. TITK's Martin Geissenhöner identifies the PCM as paraffin. 

"We have different melting points. For the root project we use melting points between 5 and 42° C, specially 17° C," he says. "The PCM is encapsulated in a network polymer. It's like a sponge structure."

Research associate Nancy Schrader says the mats are placed on the soil surface. Work on the project began in May 2015 and is expected to conclude in December. 

PCM briefing: Solar-powered micro cold rooms; Axiom Exergy's jazz connection

Ben Welter - Wednesday, September 13, 2017

• The German company Covestro is providing technology for use in solar-powered micro cold rooms in India. The cold rooms employ phase change material to keep produce cool until it can be transported from farm to market. Eight hundred units will be built in the Indian state of Telangana over the next two years. 

• In an interview with the San Jose Mercury News, Anthony Diamond talks about the musical connection he shares with Axiom Exergy co-founder Amrit Robbins. They met as undergrads at Stanford University. "I play saxophone, he’s actually a trumpet player," Diamond said. "He was like, the best jazz trumpet player on campus. So whenever I had a gig, I would call him, and vice-versa. We had an opportunity to collaborate a lot within that context. I knew that I worked really well with him and we were a really great team."

• Heat battery maker Sunamp Ltd. is one of 15 European scaleups selected to give presentations in California next week at Startup Europe Comes to Silicon Valley

Pelican BioThermal has opened a service center in Puerto Rico. The center will serve as a depot for the company’s Credo on Demand rental program and enable customers to receive and return reusable temperature controlled packaging systems.

Facebook has announced that its cloud campus in Odense, Denmark, will be connected to a neighborhood district heating system. The company expects the system will warm 6,900 homes.

Evelyn Wang, director of MIT’s Device Research Laboratory and an internationally recognized leader in phase change heat transfer on nanostructure surfaces, has been named associate department head of operations in the school's Department of Mechanical Engineering.  

Long-Qing Chen, professor of engineering science, mechanics and mathematics at Penn State University, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of Germany. Chen will work with Jürgen Rödel, professor of materials science and engineering at the Technische Universität Darmstadt, on areas of mutual interest, including multiferroic thin films and phase change materials.

MIT researchers are taking a look at 3,000-year-old technology that could help reduce the use of fossil fuels. Under the proposal, electric resistance heaters would convert excess electricity into heat. The heat would be stored in a large mass of firebricks, which can retain heat for long periods if they are enclosed in an insulated casing. The heat could be used directly for industrial processes, or it could feed generators that convert it back to electricity when the power is needed.